Former U.N. weapons inspection chief Hans Blix says Iran should be given security guarantees in exchange for an agreement on Iran's nuclear ambitions.
Blix, who headed the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, testified before a House subcommittee examining the current state of global nonproliferation efforts.
Well known for his criticism of what he calls exaggerated U.S. and British intelligence assessments of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction capabilities, Blix told lawmakers he hopes similar mistakes are not made when it comes to Iran.
"One of the lessons of the intelligence in the Iraq affair is that one should take international verification and inspection more seriously," he said. "I think there was a tendency to disregard what comes out of an international organization and to give automatic or much greater credence to intelligence."
Calling Iran and North Korea acute cases confronting the world, Blix nonetheless says he does not believe it can be concluded that Iran intends to build a nuclear bomb.
While the six-party negotiations with North Korea have included discussion of security guarantees, he suggests there have been no similar efforts by the U.S. where Iran is concerned.
"The same thinking would be needed in the case of Iran, and from what we have seen about the [diplomatic] offers in negotiations, there has been nothing held out about either security or diplomatic relations," he said.
Blix adds that European nations have moved "somewhat in the direction" of believing Iran seeks nuclear weapons. Nevertheless, in an exchange with Congressman Christopher Shays, he asserts that economic sanctions would be counterproductive.
"What is surprising to me is the lack of willingness on the part of western European nations to use sanctions," said Shays.
"I share their view, I think the threat of sanctions is counterproductive vis a vis Iran now," replied Blix. "I think they are much more likely to make the Iranians dig down their heels and feel they are being treated unfairly."
Shays suggests a lack of European willingness to confront Iran may contribute to what he calls the worst alternative, armed conflict.
Blix says there is no question Iran should suspend its enrichment program, the only question being how to achieve that goal.
Any consideration of an escalation, either sanctions or military action, must wait until all diplomatic efforts are exhausted with Tehran.